Today I want to make an important point about why receiving Holy Communion so often fails to change us, and I want to start by making an analogy:
If you want to be fit, it’s not enough to go to the gym, there are two things you need to do as well:
(1) You need to EXERCISE while you’re at the gym (not just walk through the door!), and,
(2) BEFORE being at the gym, and after leaving, you need to EAT a healthy diet.
In fact, exercise on a full bloated stomach will just make you sick;
And similarly, exercise on a weak unfed body will weaken you further.
The point is this: to benefit from the gym, you need to not merely attend the gym, but prepare yourself with your general lifestyle.
It’s the same with Holy Communion:
it’s not enough to just attend Mass, we need to come properly prepared.
Otherwise, we spiritually damage ourselves. As St Paul warns us in the Bible, when we receive Holy Communion unworthily we eat and drink condemnation upon ourselves, and, he teaches, we damage ourselves.
What is available in Holy Communion? Everything. It is God Himself we are receiving.
We can be utterly transformed. But, it’s not automatic -we need to be prepared.
I want to also note an important point: being prepared isn’t a simple on/off switch. There are DEGREES of being prepared, and thus the more we are prepared the more we are going to benefit.
Most pivotally, we need to be going to regular confession.
Most basically, we need to go to confession before receiving Holy Communion if we have committed any mortal sins. Pope Francis said recently, “We know that one who has committed a serious sin should not approach Holy Communion without having first obtained absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation.”(14th March 2018). See also, "A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession" (CIC 916).
(See quotations below, taken from our newsletter.)
What are mortal sins? 3 examples.
(a) If we’ve missed Sunday Mass, then we’ve failed in our grave duty to worship the Lord on the Lord’s Day;
(b) If we’ve viewed pornography, and/or, committed related solitary sins;
(c) If our state of life is not in keeping with the Gospel, living with someone we’re not married to, or with someone we’re not free to be married to;
-In any of these or other grave sins, we need to (i) repent, (ii) resolve to change, and (iii) purify our souls by confession.
Then, at the most basic level, we can go to Holy Communion.
But, beyond the bare minimum, if we are to BENEFIT from what is on offer in Holy Communion we need to be regularly purifying ourselves from VENIAL sins, not just mortal ones.
I’ve sometimes been asked, “How often do I HAVE to go to confession?”
But I would reply that a better question is, “How often it is GOOD for you to get to confession?” -and the answer is very often:
The more often, and more deeply, you are purifying your soul, the better able you will be to benefit from Holy Communion.
For 4 weeks now our Scripture readings have been focusing us on Holy Communion.
Those reading have repeatedly challenged us, as we heard in our second reading, to “be very careful about the sort of lives you lead”(Eph 5:15), to “leave your folly”(Prov 9:6) as our first reading put it, because if our lives aren’t suitable for Holy Communion then we won’t be ready for the graces on offer.
To return to my opening analogy:
There is no point going to a gym unless your diet and lifestyle are prepared in the build up to the gym,
and there is no point going to Holy Communion unless we regularly get ourselves to confession.
From this Sunday's newsletter:
Confession before Holy Communion
Pope Francis said recently,
“We know that one who has committed a serious sin should not approach Holy Communion without having first obtained absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation.” (14th March 2018).
"A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession" (CIC 916).
“Whoever eats the Bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the Bread and drink from the Cup.”(1 Cor 11:27-28)
3 Examples of sins preventing Holy Communion
What would be examples of mortal sins referred to in the above paragraph? In each of the following examples we commit a sin serious enough that we need to repent, resolve not to commit the sin again, and be forgiven in the sacrament of confession -only then have we rendered our soul ready again to receive the Lord in Holy Communion. Far from being something that would fill us with hesitation or awkwardness, we should rejoice that the Lord has given us such a clear way to come back to Him.
(1) Missing Sunday Mass
"The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor (Canon Law 1245). Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin."(CCC 2181)
"Pastors should remind the faithful that when they are away from home on Sundays they are to take care to attend Mass wherever they may be." (Pope St John Paul II, Dies Domini, 49)
(2) Pornography and Masturbation
“Pornography consists in removing sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.”(CCC 2354)
“Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography.” (CCC 2396)
(3) Living in a state of life contrary to the Gospel
Sometimes we are living in an on-going situation, what is called a ‘state of life’, that contradicts what Christ asks of us.
e.g. Living as husband and wife with someone we are not married to, or living with a same-sex partner, or marrying after divorce (Mk 10:11)
-in each of these and similar cases we need to resolve to amend our state of life and then go to confession.